What a difference a year makes in GPS navigation. Last November, the Netropa Intellinav 3 could have made a big splash in the value market with its low price and list of specs. But today the space around $300 GPS devices is crowded with more impressive entries from Mio, TomTom, and other big names.
The Intellinav 3 is a small, boxy unit with a 3.5-inch touchscreen and external controls for volume, power, and Standby mode. It comes with a 2GB SD Card, a clunky window mount, an outlet power cord, and a cigarette lighter power cord. While it can store MP3s and JPEG photos, you'll have to remove the SD Card if you want to put files on it, since the USB port is used only for charging the unit,
Navigating with the Intellinav 3 was easy, but not a pleasure. The device offers Navteq maps, but they looked crude, lacking the visual polish we've seen from other manufacturers. The input menus are well laid out, and we liked the shortcuts menu, which lets you quickly get directions to your house or other frequent destinations, such as ATMs, gas stations, or parking lots. While the Intellinav can pronounce street names, there's only one voice to choose from (but a handful of language options).
Setting a destination is easy, as is creating a multi-stop itinerary. Turn-by-turn directions were occasionally difficult, since the unit can't pinpoint your car's location close enough. We missed a right turn when the Intellinav told us to turn 500 feet up, yet the intersection was only 50 feet in front of us. Fortunately, rerouting is fairly quick.
Netropa tries to distinguish the Intellinav 3 through safety and convenience features, but they were a mixed bag in our testing. The big feature, the Parked-Car Locator, offers to end the confusion of the massive parking lot by leading you straight to your spot when you're done shopping. To use it, you put the Intellinav into Standby mode and take it with you when you leave your car. When you're done shopping, you power it up and select the Parked-Car Locator under the Tools menu. After a long 30 second wait--by which time you've likely found your car already--a straight line appears on the map leading you to your vehicle.
Other supposedly helpful safety features came up short. Fog Assist gives a few warning beeps as you approach an intersection, but because the Intellinav 3 isn't accurate to a close enough range, warnings come at irregular distances--including the middle of the block. The Fatigue Alert voice tells you to stay awake at narrow one-minute intervals but is so bland that it's just as likely to put you to sleep as wake you up. The School Zone Alert warns you when you're near a school, but it's unnecessary if you're at all a cautious driver.
The one safety feature we did find useful is the Emergency Option. When it's activated, you can tap the car icon on your map at any time to get directions to the nearest hospital or police station. And although the traffic information isn't based on live information, it's nice to at least have historical data on board to help you plan the quickest route.
The points of interest (POI) database contains six million entries, but searching them wasn't always easy. You can't simply search for a place name, for example, but need to call up a list of alphabetical entries or a list of places closest to you. The distance list did a better job finding nearby stores and draws from the same database.
The controls for the MP3 player and photo viewer are simple, and there's 600MB free on the device for your files. There's no built-in FM transmitter, so you'll need to listen to songs through the device's weak rear speaker. You can use the MP3 player while the navigation software is running; the navigationvoice just cutsin when it's giving directions.
The Intellinav 3 is a decent bargain unit, but it's no standout. If it can include better POI search tools and present a more attractive interface, perhaps the company can catch up with the bigger players.
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